The Good-enough Dancer
To begin with a provocation: . . .
. . . everything depends on what they think of dancing.
It is abstract in electronic text. Not as much for the ones clapping.
They: The ones sensing dancing (here, in hands.) Because dancing, body in movement sensed by others, is continuously enacting public infancies.
The utricles of populaces in formation. They will wake up one day and be like: fuck, something’s different. The something was modeled weeks, or months, or years ago by the dancing. Potential aggressions and passivities, gathered by the collective pelvic floor, which is a giant face, absorbed by the intercostal mesh, which is distributed radar. The world’s oldest profession: mime.
And, the dancing too issues the publicity of all infancies that have ever entered their pluribus. Dancing retrieves kinesic contexts of care and coaxes them into gestural jurisprudence. Recapitulating prepolitical movement. Not that an infancy is natural, or pure or even young. It’s just a familiar way to speak of the future in its fledge and flect.
The mutatory line of ligature from peristalsis1 to skin to inflection to assembly. It details the verge of civic faculties.
Infant publics are achieving zoësis every time someone dances and is sensed doing.
Formative moments for the polis. What happens now will shape them forever. “Every gesture becomes a fate.”2
An order based on a newish nuance of tonus. They must be careful with their dancing at the same time as they must abandon themselves to it.
Diplomacy not-yet-named. Early body legislating inertia of yearns. Bodies demand, again and yet again, their creation. No dancing is new, only early or late.
But before the word there is some version of motility.
Some extroversion, or diversion, or perversion. Some particular towards.
Gestures in search of their interpretations. Vicars of sense. Their majesties the squirms scrambling for thrones.
Choral futures. Tripudiary augurations.
It’s always a hideous translation. To eke some grammar out of the corporal surround. Prima assonance assoluta.
A second provocation: . . .
There has been a generalized catastrophe of the gestural sphere.
It might have started with the grid. Which lineated the perspective of the dance.
It then continued with the appropriation of motor schemas.
It might have started earlier with the transformation of the general character of social dance into fascicles of monads.
In any case it resulted in the extradition of the good-enough-dancer — to the chaparral of unclaimed spasms, to the orphanage for neglected modulations.
What are left are mostly bad dancers and phantastic dancers. And by left I mean at-large in the image-archive.
Yes, for sure. it’s fairly simple, what I’m saying, despite the baroque vocab (which is a dancing longing): everything depends on what they taste in dancing, since kinesthetic preference, multiplied, forms the ground of mass assumptions. Like, remember, the surging ground of taste for this dancing’s crucial glory of good-enough?
I’m trying to describe the volume of dancing by people I trust. People who care to offer so much in movement — so much more than blank — yet stand throbbing as sentries at the gate of the phantastical, admonishing, without boomeranging back to bad.
These people do the hard work of inflecting surplus without appropriation.
Phantastic dancers master the not-quite gesture, and by doing so rule the spectator. Bad dancer makes desperate and cynical pleas for the valuation of blank life, and by doing so invite the ravages of phantastic dancer.
Or both them them joined in one — the badphantastic dancer — attempting to forge some badphantastic origin-story-kinestheme:
Maurice Béjart, Le Sacre du Printemps (Stravinsky), 1970.
The good-enough dancer, on the other hand, is not interested in origins, but only in infancies — in a care-curve for the economy of animation in the spectator’s lifeway:
The good-enough-dancer starts with an almost complete adaptation to the spectator’s needs, and as time proceeds adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the spectator’s growing ability to deal with the dancer’s failure. 3
A dancerly failure is not just any, but is an error-labor a few degrees south of fun.
The spectator makes use of the dancer’s failures. Through these, the spectators are encouraged by the dancing body to be interested in themselves.
To animate an inner-life moving inevitably outwards. To concoct a pulsion that is not-quite desire. Dancing is not a spectacle. “It is not a spectacle because it cannot tolerate the desiring gaze.” 4
Not emancipated 5 but casually reminded, and more and more, that viscerae are in dialogue across individuals, who are not vessels, but reticulations. More is visible than we think. An adequate, unheroic empathy holds.
The spectator hardly notices the dancing — is instead held by it.
Peeping Tom Dance Theater, “Le Salon” 2004.
With the care the spectator receives from the dancing, there begins to develop what might be called a continuity of impetus. On this basis spectatorship gradually develops into a good-enough politics.
If dancerly care is not enough (or is too much) then the continuously impetuant spectator does not come into existence.
That is, the unruly spectator — who is aware of the labor of dancing, of the dancing in labor.6
Instead a politics is built on the basis of reactions to hallucinated bodily invasion.
Millions of virtual dances are generated in reaction to such an invasion. Dancing without holding.
The good-enough dancer is an actual person (of any species) trembling in the biopolitical trenches, and it’s not always pretty, and it’s not always ugly and it’s not always exciting and it’s not always boring. It’s good-enough, which is a somatic superlative.
A good-enough politics would include substantial welfare for the good-enough dancer. The good-enough dancer does not need incentives, is not sharpened by competition, is not sticked or carroted. Which is not to say the good-enough dancer is outside anything. The good-enough dancer is not a worthy sacrifice. The good-enough dancer is in the crawlspace, rewiring the house. The good-enough dancer is doing it for a living.
- "Focus on the large intestine and how its ascending and descending parts lie on each side of the body. Notice their length from inside the pelvic bowl up to the kidneys. Now visualize the large intestine resting on the back body wall. Breathe into the large intestine, and feel it lengthen as you inhale and shorten as you exhale. Keep breathing into the intestine until you have a good feeling for its length and location" from Conditioning for Dance by Eric Franklin
- Giorgio Agamben, “Notes on Gesture,” trans. Liz Heron, 1993.
- Some of these lines are adapted from D.W. Winnicott, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, 1976.
- Alain Badiou, "Dance as a Metaphor for Thought," trans. Alberto Toscano, 2005.
- "Emancipation starts from the principle of equality. It begins when we dismiss the opposition between looking and acting and understand that the distribution of the visible itself is part of the configuration of domination and subjection. It starts when we realize that looking is also an action that confirms or modifies that distribution, and that 'interpreting the world' is already a means of transforming it" Jacques Ranciére The Emancipated Spectator.
- "When we dance our fluids work overtime and sometimes escape to the surface, becoming visible. The unruly spectator makes due note of this and asks us to reconsider how fluids expose the labor of the dancer onstage and therefore the dancer as laborer. The unruly spectator reworks the bargain that audiences make to not "see" dancers' labor and instead highlights this danced labor in the viewing of sweat, tears and blood. The unruly spectator smiles and celebrates the ways that dance exposes shareera as liquid labor." Priya Srinivasan, Sweating Saris: Indian Dance as Transnational Labor, 2012.